Officials with Grant School District 110 are hoping the second time is the charm as they ask voters to approve a referendum on the April 9 ballot. The referendum would increase property taxes in order to provide more funding for schools.
Two years ago, the district placed a referendum on the ballot, but it failed by a 2-to-1 margin. In April 2011, more than 1,200 voted against the tax increase and 579 voted in favor of it.
Superintendent Matt Stines attributed the referendum's failure to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's 67 percent hike in income tax.
Why is the referendum necessary?
District 110 has seen a significant decrease in revenue from local property taxes, the State of Illinois and the federal government, Stines said.
"The state is a mess. The state cuts is where we have seen the most drastic impact," he said. "With them cutting their funding at a much greater rate than I have cut expenses, we are just not keeping up. They are hurting us."
Stines estimated the sequester -- a series of automatic cuts that went into effect March 1 -- is going to mean a 5 to 10 percent cut in federal funding for the district.
"We do not have the revenue coming in to maintain quality education," Stines said.
In addition, Quinn recently proposed a budget that once again decreases the amount school districts would receive in general state aid, which Stines said means $296,000 less in funding for Grant School District.
What cuts has the district made?
Grant District 110 slashed its budget over the last three years, according to Stines. "We have cut our education fund budget by $983,000," he said, which is 17 percent of the budget. "Unfortunately, the state has cut revenue by 22 percent."
Stines said the district cut its art teacher, two music teachers, the band and chorus program, computer teacher, part-time nurse, part-time librarian, school resource officer and six teaching positions.
"I don't know where I'm going to cut next," he said.
How much will the referendum cost?
Stines said the actual ballot is going to say the effect of the referendum is an 85-cent tax rate hike, bringing the rate from $1.42 to $2.27. However, he explained since the district plans to pay off a series of bonds, the actual impact will be much lower than that, about 40 cents. "If you have $100,000 home, it's going to cost you $8.25 a month," Stines said, which comes out to $99 more per year.
How much money will the referendum raise?
The referendum would raise $700,000 a year, Stines said. "It would put us in the shape we need to be in," he said. "It's enough to make us whole for now."
What happens if the referendum fails?
If revenue doesn't change, Stines said the district cannot continue to operate. "We got to have this to keep going," he said.
The district has been running a deficit of $450,000 a year. "It's forced us to use our working cash fund," he said. "We're going to run out of the working cash fund this year."
Without the referendum, Stines said the district would have to borrow against next year's taxes. "In a couple years, we just won't have money to operate," he said. "The technical term is dissolution. The layman's term is your district goes bankrupt. Without more revenue, we could go belly up in a a few years. It's really that dire."
For more information on the referendum, check out the Facebook page by searching Grant District 110 -- Referendum or visit www.dist110.com.
Grant School District 110 educates 750 students, pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, and employs 52 certified teachers. The district's total budget is $7.5 million.
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 618-239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.